Recycling FAQs

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In 2019 (the most recent data available), the campus disposed of 2,021 tons of single stream (mixed) recycling, which consists mainly of bottles, cans, paper, and cardboard. This number does not include non-traditional recyclables such as tires, batteries, construction and demolition, etc. 

Our recycling statistics have improved steadily on an annual basis. In 2019, the campus recycling rate was 46.5% compared to 41% in 2010. The total material diverted from the landfill (diversion rate) in 2019 was 81% of the total campus waste (including construction & demolition debris) compared to 63% in 2010. These rates can continue to improve with positive behavior change.

Your efforts make a difference!. To help you in your recycling efforts, we have assembled these Frequently Asked Questions about recycling at the University of Maryland.

Can I Recycle . . . ?

Not all plastics are recyclable. Standard campus recycle bins are primarily for plastic containers.  Plastics that cannot be placed in the campus recycling include plastic bags, plastic wrap, small plastic items (smaller than 2 inches in any dimension) PVC, Styrofoam, and chip bags. 

Plastic is recyclable only if it is a container larger than 2 inches.  

Please ensure no foods or liquids are on the plastic container prior to recycling!


Yes. Sheets of aluminum foil can be balled up and put in campus recycling bins. Other aluminum containers such as pie pans and lids from some carry-out restaurants (i.e. Chipotle) are also recyclable. Rinse off all food from the aluminum before recycling. 

Greasy and/or food-laden aluminum foil or trays are NOT acceptable. Put aluminum which is contaminated with grease and/or food in the trash.

Yes. There are specialty battery collection bins in most buildings on campus. Acceptable batteries include alkaline (AA, AAA, D-cell, C-cell, 9-volt), lithium, and nickel-cadmium. 

Lithium batteries must be wrapped individually by taping the terminals or placing the battery in a bag. This must be done to ensure that the metal terminals of the lithium batteries do not come in contact with the other batteries collected in the bin. The comprehensive list of brown battery bin locations can be found here

The Department of Environment, Safety, Sustainability, and Risk recycles Lead Acid batteries. Submit an online Regulated Waste Pick-up Request to the Environmental Affairs unit for collection.

No. Pour out leftover liquid from your bottles and cans and clean out food from containers before recycling. Containers should be free from visible food residue before recycling. All materials placed in a recycling bin should be clean and dry.

Yes. Both hard and soft cover books are recyclable, but consider first if they can be reused! If the books are in good condition then they can be donated to charity and reused by others. If the books are not in good condition to be donated, then they can be recycled in the campus recycling.

Yes. Please empty all packing materials such as plastic bags and foam and flatten cardboard boxes. The packing materials must be placed in the trash/landfill bin and not the recycling. Flattening boxes help preserve space in campus recycling containers.

CDs and DVDs can be recycled through Terrapin Trader.

Cell phones can be recycled with campus e-Waste collections. Please ensure all personal information is deleted from the phone prior to placing in a campus e-Waste bin. Electronics recycling bins can be found at the front desks of residence halls, most IT departments, and the IT Help Desk in McKeldin Library.

No. Small plastic items such as lids, straws, creamer cups, credit cards, etc. will not be captured by the mechanized sorting process at the recycling facility. Please place these small plastic items in the trash/landfill bin.

No. The cup (if plastic) can be recycled while the lid and straw have to be landfilled because they are too small to be processed at the recycling facility. If compost is available, the cup (if waxed paper) can then be composted, but the lid and straw must still be landfilled.

Please ensure no liquids or ice end up in the recycling bin.

No. The fibers in these paper products are too small and cannot be repurposed to make other products. These products are, however, compostable and can be added to a compost collection bin.

No. Pizza boxes usually have oil and grease on the cardboard and are not accepted by our recycling processor. Pizza boxes can, however, be composted! Ensure all plastic items (i.e. sauce cups) have been discarded into the trash/landfill bin, then compost the pizza box, wax paper sheet, and any leftover pizza!

Yes. Replace the lid on an empty plastic bottle and both pieces can be recycled. A bottle top separate from it’s plastic bottle, however, must go in the trash since the lid itself is too small for processing.

Yes. Place the shredded paper in a paper bag, staple it securely closed, write ‘Shredding’ on it, and put the bag in any campus recycling container.

No. Styrofoam typically has a #6 recycling symbol on it but we do not have vendors who will accept Styrofoam for recycling. Unfortunately, you need to put Styrofoam in the landfill/trash. 

The one exception is clean Styrofoam packing peanuts which are accepted at Mailboxes Etc. in College Park for reuse.


Yes.  Ink and toner cartridges can be recycled in campus electronics (e-Waste) recycling bins. There are specialty e-Waste collection bins at the front desks of residence halls, many IT departments, and the IT Help Desk. Alternatively, campus departments can collect toner cartridges and request a pick-up by emailing

Campus Waste FAQs

The recycling rate includes standard or “household” recyclable items generated by individuals. A diversion rate assesses institutional recycling and includes all material captured from land clearing, construction projects, reuse, donations, etc. that is able to be ‘diverted’ from the landfill.

The University of Maryland hauls all of its own material to the proper disposal facility. Campus housekeeping teams remove waste from bins inside buildings and Landscape Maintenance empties outdoor bins. All of this material is placed in campus dumpsters. The Recycling & Solid Waste unit of Facilities Management empties the dumpsters and transports the material to the appropriate site for further processing, sorting or landfilling.

  • Single stream (mixed) recyclables are taken to Olive Street Processing, LLC in Capitol Heights, MD for sorting. 
  • Compostable products are taken to the Prince George’s County Composting Facility in Upper Marlboro, MD for processing. 
  • Construction and demolition materials are taken to Sun Services’ Materials Recycling Facility in Beltsville, MD for separation and marketing to end-user manufacturers.
  • Solid waste is taken to the Annapolis Junction Transfer Station in Jessup, MD where it is consolidated and shipped to Virginia to be landfilled.

All current partner disposal sites are subject to change.


  • Labor: 5 CDL trash and recycling drivers to empty dumpsters and transport compactors, 3 recycling personnel for specialty pick-ups and work orders, as well as Building Services, Residential Facilities and Grounds Maintenance staff to empty indoor and outdoor bins.
  • Truck maintenance/gas: Fix general wear and tear, repair faulty equipment, fuel trucks, etc.
  • Tipping fees: The University is charged per ton to dispose of its waste material.
  • Bags: Line bins and collect the three types of material (compost, recycle, and trash).
  • Signage: Replace damaged informational signage and continue educational campaign.
  • Dumpsters: Maintain current stock and purchase additional containers as needed.


As of spring 2018, 47 campus buildings had compost collection. The UMD campus map shows all of the current buildings with compost collection under the Recycling & Waste Disposal Layer.

Adding extra compost bins requires a parallel, comprehensive educational effort to minimize contamination and amplify general campus awareness of proper waste sorting techniques. Focus is placed on improving the quality of the material captured in existing bins while also increasing collection points on campus. Campus facilities teams are working to expand the opportunity to collect compostables on campus.

The compost that is made from the organics collected from campus is sold regionally at most lawn and garden retailers as a product called LeafGro. Currently, Terp Farm uses this product in its gardens, standing as a great example of a closed-loop system.

The Prince George’s County Compost Facility certifies that they keep the appropriate carbon-nitrogen as they mix the organic matter together. The University is not involved with monitoring its compost stream in this regard. More information about our partner facility as well as the composting process can be found at this link.

In 2019, the University collected 1,407 tons of food scraps for compost. The majority of this volume is collected during the fall and spring semesters while students are on campus. An additional 215 tons of yard waste was sent for composting in 2019.